Holy Ground

Easter is upon us. As I reflect on the most tremendous sacrifice of love the world has ever known, I am overwhelmed. I can’t wrap my mind around this kind of love. Before Creation, Jesus knew the sacrifice He was fully willing to make for you and for me. He knew every doubt, sin, unbelief and evil thought we would harbor; every selfish, unkind act we would commit; every self-sufficient attempt we would make to be in control of our lives and ignore the leading of His Spirit. He knew. He died for us anyway.
John 3:16 – “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”
One of my favorite songs is Holy Ground by Passion. When I hear and sing the words to this song, I tear up. Not out of sadness or pain. These tears come from a heart that’s grateful for the grace, mercy, healing and compassion that is beyond what I can understand. Tears come out of love, awe and reverence for the power that is in the name of Jesus.  As the words to the song convey, the power in the name of Jesus changes everything! Absolutely everything. The personal encounters with Jesus I have been blessed and honored to have, of His presence, power and healing, leave me without adequate words. As you read the words to part of the song, I pray that they reach out and touch you in a personal way that is just between you and HIm. I pray the words you are desperate to hear from Him, the love you desire to know, the peace you have been so long in seeking, will fall down over you.
“Chains fall, Fear bow
Here, now
Jesus, you change everything.
Lives healed, Hope found
Here, now
Jesus, you change everything.”
He knows where healing and renewed hope are desperately needed. He knows every single detail about the chains that need to be broken and what caused them to bind you in the first place. He can heal all of that. Fear will be cast down and put in its place before the power of His great name. Jesus knows exactly why we need Him and in what circumstances we need to see a miracle. May our burning, beating hearts become holy ground, where the divine and humanity intersect and dwell together, creating something beautiful, miraculous and eternal.
“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11

 

Living with Hope

1 Peter 1:6-9 NLT “So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while.  These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him, you trust him; and even now you are happy with a glorious, inexpressible joy. Your reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.”

These can be hard words to read when we are in the midst of a painful trial that seems to have no end in sight. Sometimes the trial blindsides us and we reel with feeling overwhelmed, unprepared and totally out of control. Maybe this trial was caused by the result of someone else’s choices and we didn’t see it coming. Other times, the trial is born out of our own poor choices and we are left stumbling through consequences that our own actions brought to our doorstep. We have all been there at least once in our lives. It hurts, we are confused and we desperately want Jesus to take it all away. It becomes easy to feel helpless and to want to throw our hands up and say, “forget it, what’s the use, God?”, especially when the trial we are going through is one that God wants to use to change us and move us away from destructive patterns and steer us in a new and healthy direction. Remember, that feeling helpless is NOT the same as being helpless. With God, we are never truly helpless. He is always close to us. We are not without hope because our God is the source of all hope. He never leaves us to face our trials alone.

The authors of the Life Recovery Bible (NLT) offer these words that bring comfort to the pain and weariness that the trials of life bring us. “The refiner would heat the gold in the fire in order to separate the worthless and impure dross from the precious and beautiful gold. The dross would be skimmed off until the refiner could see his image in the liquid gold. God uses the fiery trials and tribulations in our lives to purify and beautify our faith so that one day he will see clearly his image in us. This truth offers great comfort to those of us who struggle to make sense of a past marked by suffering. We can be confident that God will separate something priceless from the dross of our experiences.”

Imagine God looking down on us as he skims off the gunk and begins to see HIS image in us; something priceless. Oh, that I could see something priceless from the mess of my life experiences! I hope it makes you smile, that the God of the universe, Creator of galaxies, is so invested and in love with us, that he takes all the time necessary, with infinite patience, to allow us to feel the heat of trials, so that he can one day bring forth, for the world to see, the radiant beauty of our life testimonies; so that we can be a beacon of hope, salvation and love to a world full of his children who are hurting and need to hear a word of hope and see a life redeemed.

1 Peter 1: 3-5 NLT “Now we live with a wonderful expectation because Jesus Christ rose again from the dead. For God has reserved a priceless inheritance for his children. It is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And God, in his mighty power, will protect you until you receive this salvation, because you are trusting him. It will be revealed on the last day for all to see.”

Something About the Rain

There’s something lovely about the rain, isn’t there? That moment when the first anticipated drops touch your face, hair, eyes.  Refreshing. It brings joy, despite a fully or partially cloud-hidden sun, trying to peep through. You know it’s there, the sun, but it’s hidden. It’s a bit mysterious to wonder what the sun might be up to up there, veiled from sight.

Or hearing those first drops on the patio cover in the wee morning hours; pattering, plopping; like a sky-song flowing down. So soothing, as I lie in bed. The blankets covering me, I am enveloped in warmth and safety, listening to nature’s lullaby.

Sometimes the dreary sky and rain damp air offers the unmistakable scent of clean; washed and rinsed; a sort of gentle, yet sometimes fierce and unrelenting, opening of the heavens; as if Creator is gifting a new start, a clean slate. All is well, the old is gone and here is the new.  Life giving water. Living water. Ancient and elemental.

The sound of the faithful pattering, dripping and beating of a good steady rain soothes and gentles the spirit and often my hectic mind, with nature’s rhythms; like an intentional chorus put on repeat. Truly one of my favorite sounds and scents.

Something about the rain dredges up childhood memories of wildly exciting, yet terrifying thunder and lightning storms, windows rattling and trembling. Such an electric feeling of exhilaration and fear, joy and safety; intertwining emotions that shouldn’t mix well together, but they do, when nature moves and does her thing. It is deep and wild. I love it.

Memories drift up of hot summer days, when a sudden rain storm cools and refreshes with the unforgettable scent of rain on hot sidewalks. That is childhood.

Something about the rain and wind and the slashing at trees, rose bushes and the apple tree reminds me that not everything in life is predictable and controllable. It’s not tamable and quieted and soothed, but roars and bucks and thrashes at the whim of the One who commands it. There is such beauty and raw power there. It is thrilling and terrifying; beautiful and fierce and unrelenting as it does the Creator’s bidding, yet it draws me in. Nature, all of it, in its pure undiluted elemental form, nourishes my soul like nothing else. It’s a God-gift I treasure and ponder. The mystery of it speaks depth to my soul. I will never get enough of it. There is just something about the rain…

Jesus with Skin On

Have you heard the expression, “Jesus with skin on?” There was a woman speaking to a group I was part of, who explained the analogy and it made a lot of sense.

When Jesus, who was fully man while remaining fully God, was born into this world, He literally had skin on, human flesh and blood. He knew, intimately, what it meant to be us. He understood and experienced everything we do; hunger, pain, the feel of sunshine on our faces, exhaustion, fellowship with others, belly laughs, belly pain, sadness, joy, etc.

Jesus also knew the deepest fears, sorrows, regrets, worries, and loneliness that humans experience. He created us in His image.

When I think of being created in God’s image, I think about how I am created to be like Him to my fellow sojourners, on this journey of life; to love people. To ask myself what He would do in everyday life situations.

What might that look like? Well, we see Jesus spending time with people who didn’t have it all together. They lied, cheated, were selfish, lived less than morally acceptable lives, were deeply hurt and outcasts from society. They were ill and in physical and emotional pain. They may have had mouths like sailors, drank too much and did things they regretted. They persecuted those who believed in Jesus and they rejected Him. These are those with whom Jesus spent a lot of time.

What did He do? He spoke to them and treated them as being made in His image. He healed them, fed them, listened to them, spoke truth in love, was with them when society rejected and shunned them. He didn’t tolerate the sin and pretend it didn’t exist. He called it out and forgave them. Most important of all, in my opinion, is that He saw them and their potential, and He LOVED THEM.

How might it look for us to be Jesus with skin on? Smile and acknowledge the existence of someone down on their luck, who might not be as clean as you prefer and might use words that offend you. Jesus loves them. Say hello to teens in the mall who glare and dress in ways you don’t like. Bring meals to those who are dealing with a job loss, illness or death in the family. Give someone your warm jacket or umbrella when they are stuck in the rain. Buy an extra burger combo or tacos and look for someone to bless. Listen to the one who’s hurting. Seek them out. It is ok to be with people who may not believe as you or don’t believe in anything at all. You can show them Jesus. He deeply loves them.

I have learned a lot about being Jesus with skin on from my two children, now 19 and almost 15. They have come from the little shopping center near our home, with stories of the homeless woman they talked to, who poured out her sadness over the loss of her husband. They were young teens and didn’t know exactly what to do, so they bought her whatever she wanted for lunch, listened to her and told her they hoped she would be ok. The woman cried because no one else had cared or even seen her. There is the time my daughter rushed home from 7/11, grabbed a backpack and filled it with non perishables from the pantry, water bottles, a gift card, blankets, a hat and other items she found in her room, and hurried out the door to go back and give it to a man she met who needed help.  That is Jesus with skin on.

It isn’t hard, but it does require us to look beyond the exterior picture we are seeing and find the one that Jesus loves so deeply. that He gave up His life for them, just like He did for you. My hope is that we all will find someone in our spheres to love on – to be Jesus with skin on.